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If your food tastes like these 2 things, you probably have the coronavirus

Published Oct 20th, 2020 8:56AM EDT
Coronavirus Symptoms
Image: stnazkul/Adobe

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  • Experiencing a sudden loss of taste and smell has been found to be an accurate indicator of a coronavirus infection.
  • Coronavirus patients who experience a loss of taste and smell typically endure less severe coronavirus symptoms.
  • A recent study found that 82% of coronavirus patients experience neurological symptoms at some point during their illness. Of this subset, a loss of taste and smell was observed in 15% of patients.

While typical coronavirus symptoms tend to mirror symptoms associated with the flu — with fever, fatigue, and headaches being common examples — many people who test positive for the coronavirus also experience a loss of taste and smell. It’s undoubtedly one of the more bizarre coronavirus symptoms, and while it’s not necessarily incapacitating, it can understandably take a toll emotionally.

Doctors first began noticing an association between the coronavirus and a sudden loss of taste and smell back in mid-late March of this year.

“We really want to raise awareness that this is a sign of infection and that anyone who develops loss of sense of smell should self-isolate,” Professor Claire Hopkins said in remarks picked up by The New York Times a few months back.

In some instances, losing the ability to taste doesn’t necessarily mean that food tastes like nothing at all. Rather, the symptom can manifest such that food typically bursting with flavor may come across as utterly bland or taste like something else entirely.

To this point, a coronavirus positive patient named Kate McHenry recently explained to the BBC the extent to which her ability to taste food had been altered.

“I love nice meals, going out to restaurants, having a drink with friends but now all that has gone,” McHenry explained. “Meat tastes like petrol and prosecco tastes like rotting apples. If my partner, Craig, has a curry the smell is awful. It even comes out of his pores so I struggle to go anywhere near him.”

While most coronavirus patients thankfully don’t report that their food tastes like gasoline, many COVID-19 patients who lose the ability to taste and smell report that food suddenly tastes like one or two things: paper or cardboard. If you find yourself wondering why your food suddenly tastes like either of those two things, you should call your primary care physician immediately.

One COVID-19 patient told the BBC earlier this month: “Everything that had really strong flavors, I couldn’t taste. I was mostly eating Jamaican food and I couldn’t taste it at all, everything tasted like paper or cardboard.”

Another coronavirus patient, meanwhile, said that some food tasted like grass:

This is relatable for Eve, a 23-year-old south Londoner, whose symptoms also started in March.

“I remember eating a pizza and it tasted like I was eating nothing,” she says.

“It’s permanently affected how some things taste, for example bell peppers now taste exactly how freshly cut grass smells.

“A lot of things smell weirdly like pickles to me, like dill pickles or sweet pickles. A lot of the time someone might ask me ‘what’s that smell?’ and I can’t smell anything at all.

“I’m really not sure why people aren’t talking about this more, it really affects people’s mental health not being able to taste food.

It remains unclear, at this point, if people impacted by a loss of taste and smell can fully regain those senses months down the line.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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